Despite a transfer ban, the best signing Frank Lampard brought into Chelsea this year was assistant manager Jody Morris.
Most of Chelsea’s plaudits have been given to Lampard and his team. However, assistant manager Morris has perhaps not been given the credit he deserves for the success Chelsea have had this year. Chelsea fans of the early 2000’s will remember a young Morris bursting onto the scene at Stamford Bridge. He is still the youngest Chelsea debutant at 17 years and 43 days.
He made 124 appearances for the Blues, including an impressive performance against Barcelona and a young Xavi, where many thought Morris could go on to great things.
Morris knows all too well the feeling of being a young player in the Chelsea first team, but when Abramovich took over, the emphasis on youth diminished, as money was invested into European superstars.
Unfortunately, Morris’ playing career never hit the heights it may have once seemed to hit. However, he took his passion into coaching when he took over the Chelsea Academy manager role in 2014.
Morris was involved in the Chelsea Academy for four years. He won the fifth successive F.A Youth Cup with the Under 18’s in the 2016-2017 season, where he coached the likes of Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount.
Morris’ years of coaching young players would prove invaluable to Lampard this season, and this is personified through Mason Mount. Mount made more appearances than any other player this season (53 in all competitions), showing how much faith the pair have in him.
The England international was captain of Morris’ youth team and was their first signing on loan when him and Lampard went to Derby County. Like Lampard, Morris was given his chance at the bridge at a young age, and it seems they both want to give the opportunities now they have the chance, and there are many similarities that can be made with them and Mount.
Morris was left frustrated at the neglect of youth players from previous managers during his tenure with the Academy. He said in an interview in 2018 with Sky Sports:
“We’ve had managers at Chelsea where they’d be 50 yards away, there’d be a Champions League U19s game going on, and the manager’s sat in his office, rather than coming out to watch. It’s very disheartening.
“The thing about Chelsea is I don’t think there’s an academy in this country that’s better, but it doesn’t look like that on paper because of the amount of players who are not playing in the first team.”
Without Morris, and his experience in the youth system, then Lampard would not have been anywhere near as successful as he has with using youngsters this year.
The story has come full circle, the original wonder boy who lit up Barcelona 20 years ago is now the man to be breaching the gap from youth to first team, nurturing and coaching these young men into some of the hottest talents in world football.